Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Perseverance

By Jamie Ford

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Chapter 13

But now, deep down, Henry wanted to tell his son everything. How seemingly unfair life was in retrospect, and how remarkable it was that they'd all just accepted what they had and made the best of it. (13.3)

Marty doesn't know his father's life story and all the hardship he's been through. Now Henry wants to explain it all to his son—how he grew up in a time of war and faced many obstacles but worked hard and made it through anyway.

Chapter 17

As he left the hotel, Henry looked west to where the sun was setting, burnt sienna flooding the horizon. It reminded him that time was short, but that beautiful endings could still be found at the end of cold, dreary days. (17.13)

It's taken him an awfully long time to start looking for Keiko again, but Henry is finally getting somewhere. Sometimes the things that really matter take lots of patience and a heaping spoonful of perseverance before they happen.

Chapter 22

Henry looked down at Keiko's things. The photo albums. The wedding album. Things he'd promised to protect. He could barely stand up to one, let alone the three of them. Without thinking, Henry slammed the handle of the Radio Flyer back into the wagon and took off running, pushing the wagon from behind. (22.17)

Being put in charge of Keiko's precious family belongings makes Henry braver than he normally would be, and he runs as fast as he can to get away from the bullies and find a safe hiding place for those photo albums.

Chapter 23

"That's been Pop's Holy Grail—rumor is they printed a handful back in the forties, but none survive today," Marty explained. "Some people don't even believe it ever actually existed, because when Oscar died, he was so old even he didn't remember recording it. Just some of his bandmates, and of course Pops here—" (23.60)

For years, Marty has been aware of his father's search for the Oscar Holden record but doesn't know why it's so important. Now that he's learned about Keiko and how much Henry loves her, he finally gets it.

Chapter 25

"I knew going to a Caucasian school was going to present certain challenges for Keiko," Mr. Okabe said. "But we tell her, Be who you are, no matter what. I warned her that they may never like her, some might even hate her, but eventually, they will respect her—as an American." (25.34)

Henry is super impressed by how the Okabe family refuses to be put down just because they're Japanese American. They'll keep fighting for their right to be seen as Americans, no matter how much resistance they meet.

Chapter 26

Henry hadn't spoken to Keiko since they left the restaurant. He'd called again from a pay phone on the way over, but the phone just rang and rang until an operator cut in asking if there was a problem. He hung up. If he was to find them, this was the place. But had they left already? He had to find her. He hated the thought of going back to school without her and was surprised at how much he missed her already. (26.38)

He may be a good, responsible student, but Henry's willing to skip school in order to look for Keiko. He needs to find her in that large crowd of people being evacuated so he can say goodbye properly.

Chapter 28

Henry breathed a sigh of quiet relief and sat down on an old milk crate. Like so many things Henry had wanted in life—like his father, his marriage, his life—it had arrived a little damaged. Imperfect. But he didn't care, this was all he'd wanted. Something to hope for, and he'd found it. It didn't matter what condition it was in. (28.28)

After all these years of searching, Henry's finally found the elusive Oscar Holden record. It doesn't even matter that the record is damaged and unplayable; he's just happy to have this memento of the time he shared with Keiko.

Chapter 31

But the more he questioned those who came through his chow line about the Okabes, the more frustrated he became. Few cared, and those who did never seemed to understand. Still, like a lost ship occasionally sending out an SOS, Henry kept peppering those he served with questions. (31.7)

When Henry starts working at Camp Harmony, he thinks it'll be easy to find Keiko—but he soon discovers that the camp is huge and filled with people who don't know the Okabe family. Nonetheless, he keeps asking after them because he's determined to find his friend.

Chapter 33

It was delicious. "This takes years to learn how to make, how did you…"

"I've been practicing," Samantha explained. "Sometimes you have to just go for it. Try for what's hardest to accomplish. Like you and your childhood sweetheart." (33.17-18)

Samantha is definitely trying to get in her future father-in-law's good graces. She's spent all this time learning to make a traditional Chinese dessert that requires tons of skill and practice, so she's obviously invested in this relationship. Fun fact: fancy dessert is totally the way to our hearts, too.

Chapter 49

"We both" —Sheldon paused, then caught his breath again— "know why you were always looking for that old record. Always known." His breathing slowed. "Fix it," Sheldon managed to say one last time, before drifting off to sleep, his words disappearing into the soft hissing of the oxygen. (49.30)

Even on his deathbed, Sheldon wants to remind Henry that he can't give up on finding Keiko. She was his first love, and Sheldon knows that Henry needs to find her again—even though it's been decades since they last spoke.

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